chicken stew

When I was a kid and MFAOAunt and Uncle were Young Marrieds With A Little Girl, my family would have dinner with them on a fairly regular basis. In fact, we did lots of fun things with MFAOAunt and Uncle. Lots of things that often revolved around food - and my uncle did all the cooking. I can't remember my aunt cooking anything all those years and there are lots of family jokes about my mom, her sister and their mother being the queens of "broiling and boiling."
No matter. Over the years, my uncle became well known for many wonderful dishes, among them: his stuffing at Thanksgiving, an absolutely perfect Irish Soda Bread and Chicken Stew.
Chicken Stew evolved, over time, from one chicken, a package of peas and lots and lots of potatoes into plenty of chicken, carrots, onions, fresh herbs, a package of peas and as many potatoes as guests. (As Young Marrieds, with a limited budget, potatoes stretched the dish.)
Year after year we gathered for Chicken Stew.
Through deaths and births, joy and sorrow, in deep snow and warm weather, my now-extended family gathers for Chicken Stew at MFAOA and Uncle's home.
This year they are grandparents and are battling serious illness - but we gathered for Chicken Stew.
But there is a little more back-story.
You see, nearly every time we have Chicken Stew, and no matter what device my dear uncle employs to remember them, the peas are often forgotten on the kitchen counter and, inadvertently, left out of the stew.
We sit, we acknowledge the great meal - and then we tuck in...and my uncle suddenly remembers, or someone reminds him of the peas in the kitchen and we all have a good laugh.
This year was rough on them but MFAOAunt and Uncle decided to still have Chicken Stew night...on Christmas day no less. They felt that it would bolster their sagging spirits and said they could handle it if we all pitched in.
There was no question. Of course we'd pitch in. K offered to cook from my uncle's recipe. We promised to set the table and clear it. But they refused most of our offers. Much planning was done and they had my cousin and her husband on hand to be of assistance. But we wanted it and they wanted it to be as "normal" as possible and the birds began to conspire.
What to do? How to delight? We needed something...funny hats, costumes, a sight gag, SOMETHING.
And so, I decided on The Peas Joke.
I bought five cans of peas.
I gave each boy a can.
The plan: upon sitting at the table (which this year included K's mom!), after the signal, the boys would pull their cans of peas from under their chairs and put them on the table whilst saying something about forgetting them/helping my uncle out/needing more.
We made alternate plans in the event of a buffet but were pleased to see the table set and ready for our plot. We worried, just a little, that my uncle would actually remember the peas this year rendering our gag slightly less hilarious but were overjoyed (and could barely contain ourselves) when he forgot the peas again.
We waited for him to join us at the table.
We praised the beauty of the meal, the day, the company.
And then, just before we tasted, I gave the signal, five cans of peas were placed on the table and each of us had a line...
we brought these just in case...
I think you forgot something...
let me give you a hand with that...
isn't this missing...peas?
hey, are there PEAS in this?
It was priceless.
We laughed very hard.
And now, my dear uncle, is WEALTHY in peas.


Anonymous said…
I can taste the chicken stew. wish I had ben there.

Lisa said…
This is great! We have a story sort of like this with my mom's banana pudding. She'd make it, we'd be eating, and she'd say something seemed to be missing. What was it? THE BANANAS! (And this pretty much describes my mom's and my cooking skill.) My hubby actually found a large, pretty ceramic bowl with the words, "Don't forget the banana's!" at the bottom of it and we still laugh about it years later. Thanks for the smile!
smalltownme said…
That's the best story ever!
Anonymous said…
You know what you are? You are good people.

Now the thing to do is have some pea soup.

Anonymous said…
That is unbelievably sweet. He'll tell that story FOREVER now.
ErinH said…
Wealthy in peas.
Wealthy in family.
Anonymous said…
Wonderful story!
Unknown said…
Your family stories (and family!) are the best! One can never have too many peas, not when it comes to the bird family.
Anonymous said…
Peas porridge hot,
peas porridge cold,
peas stories from Blackbird
never get old.

I'm sure your tales are mostly writ for *you*,(as they shoud be), but they do so much for *us*.

And I thank you. I'm feeling a bit verklempt (sp?) about my own elderly parents this holiday, and trying to be part of every moment.

(mother of boys, tongue-tied)